Farewell to Patriarch of NZ Jumping
Equestrian Sports New Zealand and New Zealand showjumping has lost one of its most ardent supporters with the passing of Gus Meech.
Over a lifetime involvement, Gus has been a real driver behind improving showjumping here, with a passion bar none for the sport.
The honorary life member is a previous director and chief executive (1984-1996) of ESNZ and was the first New Zealand representative to attend an FEI General Assembly when he travelled to Berne in Switzerland in 1990.
Merran Hain describes her long-time friend as “the matriarch” of New Zealand equestrian. “He was huge,” she says. “He was a big influence on the FEI because he had so much knowledge. He really had the most input from anyone from New Zealand.”
Gus was also a top rugby player, with 70 games for the Magpies (1963-1969) including the halcyon days of when the Bay had a tight grip on the Ranfurly Shield.
His father Bill was a respected horseman and captained the New Zealand showjumping team to Australia (1955), with Gus twice runner-up in the Olympic Cup for Showjumper of the Year.
In 1983 he became chair of the Hawke’s Bay area committee and the following year was asked to be a director for the Horse Society, which marked the beginning of his years dedication to the sport. He was also a member of the showjumping technical committee.
It was Gus who introduced the Grand Prix points prize series, and later was the driver behind more series, including the likes of the junior and young rider.
He was the chef de mission for equestrian at the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988 and a selector for the showjumping team.
After his stroke in 2007, he opted not to re-stand for the board but that didn’t slow down his interest in showjumping and he would often call the national office to chase up the latest copy of the revised jumping rules to ensure he was always abreast with things. In 2008 he was awarded the Plimer Plate for his services to equestrian.
He and former wife Val had an orchard in Hawke’s Bay, but he later moved to Tauranga for a period before coming back to the Bay to be nearer to family.
Kevin Hansen often had conversations with Gus about showjumping. “He was always thinking about things and what should be done. He was a great thinker,” said Kevin. “He really did put his heart and soul into equestrian.
That was reiterated by Maurice Beatson. “He dedicated his life to the sport,” said Maurice. “He just loved it and would talk about it forever. He was so very passionate about it and had a real vision to improve it always. He certainly left the sport in a better place.”
Gus was incredibly proud of his son Daniel, who was one of three children in the family. All rode and were successful in their younger days but it was Daniel who took things to the next level, riding at multiple Olympic Games and representing New Zealand at Nations Cups too. Gus had a lot to do with his success, and Daniel remains new Zealand’s best-placed showjumping Olympian with his 12th place finish at Athens.
The announcement of Gus’ passing resulted in hundreds of comments from people all over who reminisced about their involvement with him, and many tipping their hat to how much he contributed to New Zealand showjumping.
Gus is survived by his children Vicky, Guy and Daniel, and grandchildren Harry, Felix, Will and Henry. A private service has been held.
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